What began in a muddy Oxfordshire field 25 years ago is today a global phenomenon. Bicester Village is recognised as one of the most successful shopping destinations in the world and is the founding member of The Bicester Village Shopping Collection, with 11 Villages across Europe and China. Today 45 million visitors visit the Villages – a testament to the phenomenal staying power of physical retail.
Bicester Village now showcases 160 world-class brands, all offering year-round savings of up to 60 per cent off the recommended retail price, and 2019 saw the arrival of new ones, including Balmain, Breitling, Clarins, Karl Lagerfeld and Manolo Blahnik with Claudie Pierlot, Hourglass and 111SKIN, coming soon. This is far more than just a shopping destination. The display of brands is constantly refreshed and new experiences are always on offer so that guests never feel like they’re visiting the same Village twice.
The Collection applies the expertise of luxury hospitality to retail
In 2019 there was an evolving programme of exciting events, beginning with a pop-up curated by leading fashion influencer Susie Bubble, celebrating Chinese New Year and showcasing young Chinese designers. Then contemporary Indian talent was celebrated with a concept store. Life-sized elephant sculptures came to the Village, the first stop of their world tour for Elephant Family, founded by the late Mark Shand to highlight the plight of endangered Asian elephants.
During summer, the first pop-up in Europe for Ghizlan Guenez’s fashion ecommerce site, The Modist, showcased ‘modest fashion’. Bicester Village also welcomed the Voices of East London concept store, showing alternative fashion and wearable art, curated by artist-turned-fashion designer Mei-Hui Liu. Bicester Village’s firm support for emerging British designers was evident during its British Fashion Council Designer Pop-up in the autumn, enabling 30 British designers to trade at no cost for 20 days, giving them access to Bicester Village’s international guests.
Then there are the world-class restaurants, the farmshop restaurant & cafe by Soho House & Co and Café Wolseley, bringing the best of London’s culinary wizardry to Oxfordshire. The Bicester Village Shopping Collection has long applied the expertise of luxury hospitality to retail, offering services similar to the concierge of a five-star hotel. However guests arrive – at the Village’s own train station, by bus or car – there are luggage cloakrooms, valet parking, hands-free shopping, bellboys, personal shoppers, multilingual hosts and impeccably trained staff.
‘Technology is an enabler, to connect with our guests and enhance a seamless customer journey,’ says Desirée Bollier, Chair and Chief Merchant of Value Retail Management, creator and operator of The Bicester Village Shopping Collection, ‘yet it can never replace the emotion and memories created from the experience of physical retail.’
In 2020 Bicester Village celebrates its quarter century and it will continue doing what it has always done – reinventing itself to be at the forefront of luxury retail landscape. Meanwhile, the Village’s location near London – a global tourist destination – remains compelling. ‘We are proud to think of Bicester Village as a great British brand,’ says Bollier, ‘an interlock between industries and people – between Britain and the world.’